As a food concession vendor, the care you take setting up your booth translates into smooth operations, safe customers and profitable sales. Devoting extra time early in the day to fine tuning your setup can lessen your stress, increase your production capacity and prevent avoidable injuries. As you start out, avoid many rookie mistakes by understanding your operation's requirements and idiosyncrasies and by planning your setup carefully from the outset.
Setting Up For Safety
A safe food vendor setup keeps customers away from hot stoves and sharp equipment and utensils. Arrange tables and counters between work stations and customer service areas. For example, set up a condiment table along the outer edge of your stove to serve as a barricade. Store knives and chemicals such as bleach out of the reach of customers, especially children. Keep food inventory safe by storing it off the ground on tables or in sturdy, sealed containers; keep food and packaging covered to minimize exposure to contaminants such as rain and dust. Cold hold potentially hazardous foods in coolers with sufficient ice. Tie weights to each leg of your tent to prevent it lifting up in stormy conditions.
Setting Up for Efficiency
The more smoothly you're able to cook and serve the food you prepare in your booth, the more profitable your business. Arrange the equipment and inventory in your booth to correspond with your cooking processes. For example, if you're making sandwiches, store the bread, meat, and condiments together, along with the paper products you'll use to serve them. Avoid obstacles such as coolers in the middle of the booth, and situate the equipment you use most frequently where it is most accessible.
Setting Up for Appeal
The better your booth looks, the more customers will want to buy your food. Set up your booth so customers easily can see what you're doing, especially if your operation involves processes such as rolling out dough or assembling sushi, which attract attention and entice shoppers to buy. Arrange counters and condiment stations so you can clean them easily while you work. Hang signs so they are visually appealing but avoid hanging them where they will obstruct customers' views of your food.
Setting Up for Comfort
No matter how safe, efficient, or visually appealing your food booth setup, you'll have difficulty operating successfully if you aren't comfortable. When setting up in the blazing sun, use tent side walls or an awning to maximize shade. On hot days, provide sufficient space to stand as far as possible from the grills when you aren't cooking. Choose tables that are appropriate for your height and use fatigue mats when standing on concrete.
Devra Gartenstein founded her first food business in 1987. In 2013 she transformed her most recent venture, a farmers market concession and catering company, into a worker-owned cooperative. She does one-on-one mentoring and consulting focused on entrepreneurship and practical business skills.